Posted by Guest on January 24, 2018 in Blog

By Mona Ahmad

Leah Haidar received a 2017 AAIF Helen Abbott Community Service Award for her outstanding youth leadership and community service. Now in college, we caught up with Haidar, getting details on her groundbreaking Party Project and what she’s doing now.

The Party Project

Haidar started the Party Project as part of a Girl Scout Gold Award, which is the highest award possible for Girl Scouts. Haidar explains, “My troop hosted Halloween parties for a local homeless shelter for the past several years. The kids and families really enjoyed being able to participate.  When I began planning my Gold Award [project] I contacted the shelter to see what they did to celebrate birthdays and they told me they really didn’t do anything because of a lack of resources. So I created the Party Project to provide birthday kits with no strings attached. I partnered with six social service agencies in my community and they distributed the kits.”

With the 2017 AAIF Helen Abbott Community Service Award, Haidar was able to buy and supply birthday party kits to youth in her community that included party essentials from cake mix to decorations. After receiving this recognition, Haidar was also awarded the YSA/Disney Summer of Service grant and the Peace First grant. She notes that the AAIF scholarship helped pave the way for more project funding.

Although Haidar has since earned a Girl Scout Gold Award and has moved away from her community for college, her legacy lives on as a local church youth group has taken over the Party Project to ensure that low-income and at-risk youth in their community may continue celebrating their birthdays.

Speaking about her Peace First grant and what peace means to her, Haidar says, “To me a peacemaker is someone who helps others. I would like to think that I am one or at least working towards becoming one.  I think that if we are all a little more empathetic and understand that everyone has different things going on so not to be judgmental then we would see that we all have a lot in common.”

Interest in the arts

Prior to creating the Party Project, Haidar appeared in minor acting roles ranging from internet short films to television. Although Haidar no longer has plans to pursue roles on screen she expresses interest in the technical side of production such as camera operations. Now that she’s no longer on stage Haidar is, “enjoying the east coast and the accessibility to Philadelphia and New York City as I love going to concerts and Broadway shows!”

Reflecting on her short stint in acting Haidar states that the experience, “helped me to be comfortable speaking in front of people and to not be afraid to try something new.” She looks to role models like Carrie Fisher to find the strength to power through the tough times and to exhibit intelligence, independence and fearlessness when speaking her mind.

Haidar is from Eugene, OR and is a freshman at Bryn Mawr College, where she studies Sociology. She plans to travel to Morocco where she will introduce a travel vlog to share her unique experiences with others.

Mona Ahmad is a 2018 Spring Intern at the Arab American Institute.